Exploring a career in aesthetic medicine

Last Updated : 08 July 2015, 16:33 IST

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Until a decade ago, it was difficult for youngsters in India looking to enter the field of medicine to comprehend a career in aesthetic medicine. The students who did chose to study skin medicine or dermatology either specialised in treating skin conditions or took up plastic surgery as their discipline. However, with growth of a parallel clinical subspecialty known as aesthetic medicine, there is another lucrative career choice for the young guns. Not just doctors and aesthetic physicians, the field also opens up career options for non-medicine trained staff to man the tools and technology being used in the field of aesthetic medicine.

So, what is aesthetic medicine and how is it different from dermatology and plastic surgery? This is a question that is often asked by a large number of people. There is immense lack of awareness when it comes to the field of aesthetic medicine. In the eyes of most people, any cosmetic procedure is equivalent to plastic surgery, and any doctor specialising in treating skin conditions might be a plastic surgeon. However, with increasing growth of this field, it is high time that these misconceptions are shed and people are educated about the difference in these subspecialties and the career choices these provide them.

Aesthetic medicine is a developing clinical subspecialty which uses minimally invasive cosmetic treatments to enhance the physical appearance of patients. It is to be noted that aesthetic physicians specialise in performing a wide variety of non-invasive procedures, which do not involve cutting, stitching or going under the knife. In brief, no plastic surgery is conducted by aesthetic physicians. This field acquires medical knowledge of skin, beauty and ageing to use it in conjugation with their artistic instinct.

World over, non-invasive procedures remain more popular than surgical techniques among people who desire to improve their physical appearance.  Among the most popular medical aesthetic procedures across the world today are botox, hyaluronic acid fillers, lasers for hair removal, skin resurfacing and pigmentation reduction, deeper peels for skin radiance and other procedures to improve skin’s tone and texture such as peels, microdermabrasion etc.

Though medical doctors trained in dermatology form the core of this field, a career in aesthetic medicine can be approached through multiple disciplines. An MBBS doctor can be an aesthetic physician after completing a fellowship programme or a certification programme of one year.

Doctors who graduate in dermatology today augment their dermato-surgical skills by undergoing thorough training in procedures like Injectables and Lasers through fellowship or certification programs at academies like Singapore Skin Institute or Sriraj Institute in Bangkok or WOSIAM in Europe or International Academy of Aesthetic Medicine or RGUHS back home. They are known as Cosmetic Dermatologists, which is a super specialisation in the field of dermatology.

MBBS doctors can do a specialised and comprehensive academic programme, MSc in Aesthetic Medicine. In India, it is offered by a university in Tamil Nadu; and if you’re looking at foreign options, you could consider UK. Then they are treated as aesthetic physicians, not dermatologists. Aesthetic physicians may work in consonance with a multi-disciplinary team whereby they help accident or burn victims who may be dealing with scars or the trauma of disfiguring.

Helping improve their physical appearance, reducing scars, reconstructing disfigured areas is a part of medical aesthetics. However, a major part of the demand for facial aesthetics comes not from trauma victims but normal people who want to improve their appearance by correcting facial features like chin, lips or nose or undergoing procedures to look younger. People working in entertainment, media or consumer facing industries have a constant need of maintaining their facial aesthetics, and they contribute to the demand of non-surgical procedures.

Remember, specific training and certification is required for experts in this field. Many doctors continue to add to their skills by training regularly at international societies and workshops.

Support staff and technicians
With emergence of beauty clinics and spas across the urban landscape of India, there is a high demand for trained technicians and support staff to man the operations. In dermatologist offices, specially trained aestheticians may perform exfoliation treatments such as microdermabrasian. Additionally, they might treat precancerous cells or offer restorative treatments. Medical aestheticians working in plastic surgery offices provide pre- and post-operative skin care for patients. For technicians and support staff, a medical degree is not needed to enter this field. They may do so by studying a number of diploma or certification courses in therapies such as lasers, peels, facials, electroporation, etc, and tools of cosmetology. In clinics, they will always do so under the supervision of an aesthetics physician.

*Cosmetic Dermatologist: A super speciality in dermatology. The doctor would have studies MBBS, and a Diploma or Masters in Dermatology and then a fellowship in Cosmetic Dermatology.

*Aesthetic Physician: A doctor of modern medicine (MBBS) who has done a specialist course or certification in Aesthetic Medicine.

*Medical Aesthetician: A beauty therapist who has studies a specialised course for medical cosmetology procedures and performs basic peels and lasers or hair removal under the supervision of a doctor.

(The author is cosmetic dermatologist & syndicate member, Rajiv Gandhi Health University)

Published 08 July 2015, 16:31 IST

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